Luang Por Dhammajayo
||It has been suggested that this article be merged into Wat Phra Dhammakaya. (Discuss) Proposed since September 2016.|
|School||Theravada, Maha Nikaya|
|Lineage||Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen|
22 April 1944 |
Sing Buri Province
|Based in||Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Pathum Thani, Thailand|
|Title||Abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya|
|Teacher||Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro, Chandra Khonnokyoong|
|Website||Biography of Phrathepyanmahamuni – Dhammakaya Foundation|
Luang Por Dhammajayo (Thai: หลวงพ่อธมฺมชโย) is the abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Thailand and the president of the Dhammakaya Foundation. The temple and its foundation are part of the Dhammakaya Movement. Phrathepyanmahmuni was the honorific royal name that Luang Por Dhammajayo received in 2011. He is well-known as a teacher of Dhammakaya meditation. He is been subject to heavy criticism and some government response. Despite these controversies, he continues to be "probably the most politically, economically, educationally and socially engaged of monks in the modern period" (McDaniel).:110
Luang Por Dhammajayo was born in Sing Buri Province Chaiyabun Sutthiphon on 22 April 1944 to Janyong Sutthiphon (his father) and Juri Sutthiphon (his mother).:20 His parents were Lao Song and Thai-Chinese, and separated when he was young. Chaiyabun was raised by his father, who was an engineer working for a government agency.:33 In Wat Phra Dhammakaya's publications, Chaiyabun is described as a courageous child, who would often play dangerous games with fellow students. It is also said he sometimes had predictive visions.:33 Whilst studying at Suankularb Wittayalai, the owner of the school would bring Chaiyabun regularly to the Sra Prathum Palace, where he would meet with monks. This sparked his interest in Buddhism from a young age. He set up a Buddhist Youth Society together with his fellow students.:24 – 27 :48 Chaiyabun developed a strong interest in reading, especially in books on Buddhist practice and biographies of leading people in the world, both religious and political.:25:33 He came across a book with teachings from Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro and a magazine about the maechi Chandra Khonnokyoong.
In 1963, while he enrolled in the Faculty of Economics of Kasetsart University, he started visiting the temple Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen. It was here that he first met Maechi Chandra, Luang Pu Sodh's main student when he was still alive. Maechi Chandra was able to answer Chaiyabun's profound questions, which made him curious to investigate further through the practice of meditation. Under Maechi Chandra's supervision, Chaiyabun attained a deeper understanding of Buddhism.:32 – 37
Chaiyabun got to know many fellow students both in Kasetsart University and in other universities who were interested in practicing meditation, and encouraged them to join him in learning meditation with Maechi Chandra.:111 One of these early acquaintances later became a Buddhist monk and Luang Por Dhammajayos's assistant in the endeavor to establish a meditation center: Phadet Phongsawat, now known as Luang Por Dattajivo, the vice-abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya. At the time when Chaiyabun met Phadet, Phadet was involved in practice of black magic (Thai: ไสยศาสตร์), and would often hold organized public demonstrations of black magic to his fellow students. In Wat Phra Dhammakaya's biographies it is told that every time Chaiyabun joined to watch one of Phadet's demonstrations, the magic would not work. Phadet therefore become curious about Chaiyabun's mental powers, and decided to test Chaiyabun by bringing him to his black magic teacher. But even the teacher could not use his powers in Chaiyabun's presence. Phadet therefore became curious, and learnt about Dhammakaya meditation from Phadet. This was a turning point, and from that moment on he has always been Chaiyabun's student and assistant.:33
During his university years, Chaiyabun wanted to stop his studies to ordain as a monk instead. Maechi Chandra and Chaiyabun's father persuaded him to finish his degree though, arguing that Chaiyabun could do more benefit to society if he was both knowledgeable in mundane matters and spiritual matters. During his university years, he took a vow of lifelong celibacy as a birtday's gift for Maechi Chandra. This was an inspiration for many other of Maechi Chandra's students, many of which took vows in the following years.:35 After his graduation from Kasetsart University with a bachelor's degree in economics, he was ordained at Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen on 27 August 1969, and received the monastic name "Dhammajayo".:42 – 44
Once ordained, he started teaching Dhammakaya meditation together with Maechi Chandra. In the beginning, the meditation courses were carried in a small house called 'Ban Thammaprasit' in the Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen compound. Because of the popularity of both teachers, they considered it more appropriate to start a new temple by themselves. On 23 February 1970, Maechi Chandra, Luang Por Dhammajayo and their students moved to a plot of donated land in Pathum Thani Province. They transformed the site into a wooded parkland with a system of canals. The site was later named Wat Phra Dhammakaya.:48
Teaching and recognition
Luang Por Dhammajayo has influenced millions of people within Thailand and worldwide through his modern approach of teaching Dhammakaya meditation, for which he is mostly known. In his approach of propagating Buddhism he has emphasized a return to a purer Buddhism, as it had been in the past. He has also opposed protective magic and prognostication as reflecting that Buddhism is deteriorating. LP Dhammajayo is known for his modern style of temple management and iconography.
LP Dhammajayo set up the Dhammakaya Open University in Azusa, California, in 2003 to offer degree courses in Buddhist studies. He has encouraged people to quit drinking and smoking through a nationwide program. The World Health Organization (WHO) presented a World No Tobacco Day Award to Luang Por Dhammajayo in recognition for the achievement of this program on 31 May 2004.:181 LP Dhammajayo emphasizes youth activities, by encouraging youth to participate in various community and social services in Buddhist temples and elsewhere. Hundreds of thousands of people participate in various activities annually of people participate in various activities annually. These programs have been in existence since the 1980s and a total of nearly five million people have participated in such activities, of which tens of thousands have ordained as monks. Many followers in the temple believe that the projects he launches are a product of his visions in meditation.:34
LP Dhammajayo has expanded his activities of Dhamma teaching to many countries abroad: as of 2010, 57 worldwide Dhammakaya centers had been opened.:150 – 153 He has also set up a satellite channel called the Dhammakaya Media Channel with Buddhist teachings and guided meditations, in four languages. In 2013, in commemoration of year 2550 of the Buddhist Era, the World Buddhist Sangha Youth (WBSY) presented the Universal Peace Award to LP Dhammajayo at their third WBSY meeting, in recognition of his work in disseminating Buddhism for more than 30 years.:185 Many other awards have been given to LP Dhammajayo by Buddhist organizations worldwide.
In 1999 and again in 2002 Luang Por Dhammajayo was accused of fraud and embezzlement by the media and later by some government departments. Widespread negative media coverage at this time was symptomatic of Luang Por Dhammajayo being made a scapegoat by the Thai media to draw attention away from "serious problems" in the wake of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. Several newspapers apologized in 2001 and 2003 for slandering LP Dhammajayo with wide-ranging accusations which all turned out to be untrue. Considering the accusations being made, the Sangha Supreme Council declared that Wat Phra Dhammakaya had not broken any serious offenses against monastic discipline (Vinaya), but the council did give practical suggestions on how to remedy the situation. In 2006, The Thai National Office for Buddhism cleared LP Dhammajayo of all accusations when he agreed to offer all the funds to the temple. He was subsequently restored to the position of abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya. In an interview held in 1999, LP Dhammajayo said he understood the government's anxiety about Buddhist movements with large gatherings, but still felt perplexed about the controversies.
In a press conference on 29 October 2015, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), the Thai counterpart of the FBI, stated that its investigators had found that Supachai Srisuppa-aksorn, ex-chairman of the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUK), had fraudulently authorised 878 cheques worth 11.37 billion baht to various individuals and organisations, which included Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Phrathepyanmahamuni, and the Maharattana Ubasika Chan Khonnokyoong Foundation, amongst others. Monks related to these groups and entities showed they had received cheques from the credit union on 21 occasions between 5 March 2009 and 15 February 2011.
According to Luang por Dhammajayo's lawyer, cheques given to Wat Phra Dhammakaya and LP Dhammajayo were in the form of donations. Although LP Dhammajayo has admitted to receiving the money, he was not aware that the donations were illegally obtained. There were no reasons for suspicion because Srisuppa-aksorn told the temple he ran several successful businesses. Moreover, the donations were received publicly, not in secret. Once the donations were revealed to be linked to embezzlement accusations, supporters of the temple raised the 674 million baht linked to Wat Phra Dhammakaya to donate to the KCUC to keep it from becoming insolvent. The credit union then dropped all complaints and issued a letter of appreciation to the temple, after which the court dropped the case.
Regardless, the DSI is still pursuing legal action against the temple and the money raised by supporters to return to KCUC is still being held by the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) (a government agency) at this time.[when?] The DSI has submitted the case to public prosecutors to decide whether to file charges.
Phrathepyanmahamuni is the third royal title bestowed on him by the Thai Royal Family in recognition of his contribution to the work of Buddhism in Thailand. The dates and titles of his promotions within the royal monastic order are as follows:
|Monastic title||Date of Award|
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